Domingo German of the Yankees stands on the mound during...

Domingo German of the Yankees stands on the mound during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, July 18, 2019 in the Bronx. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Domingo German could laugh about it after the game.

Of course, he couldn’t while facing the Rays on Thursday at the Stadium. But after German surrendered home runs by Austin Meadows and Yandy Diaz to start the game, he didn’t allow another run in his six innings.

Backed by a big fifth inning and a spark from Aaron Boone’s ejection, German earned his 12th win, tied for the MLB lead with Texas’ Lance Lynn, as the Yankees beat the Rays, 6-2, in the first game of a doubleheader.

Had he ever given up two home runs to start a game? “No, that’s the first time ever,” he said through his translator. German grinned after giving the answer.

His curveball didn’t have its signature bite or location, and both homers came off hangers that Meadows and Diaz didn’t miss. German then leaned more on his changeup, a third pitch that Boone has been impressed with this season.

“What’s made him successful this year is the feel for three pitches and the ability to throw those in any count, and for example today, in any situation,” Boone said. “Sometimes you’re not always going to have your best breaking ball, your best fastball, and the really good ones are able to still kind of find a way and figure it out, and he did that today.”

German (12-2, 3.38 ERA) allowed four hits and two walks and struck out five in six innings. Of his six baserunners, four came in the first inning. The last hit he allowed — a single by Diaz in the third — was erased on a double play. He retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced and is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings since his return from the injured list on July 3.

In his last three games before going on the IL with a strained left hip flexor, German went 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA and allowed 21 hits in 14 2/3 innings.  In his other 13 games (12 starts), he has gone 12-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 50 hits allowed in 73  1/3 innings.

“He does such a good job, for being still a young big-leaguer, of not letting a result that just happened spill into the next pitch,” Boone said. “He’s really good at controlling his emotions, just locking in, and executing pitches. Today, his breaking ball wasn’t as dominant as it’s been for much of the year, and he’s able to still kind of find his way and give us six really good innings.”

Boone couldn't stick around for all six innings, as he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes with umpire Brennan Miller in the bottom of the second. His angry protest made an impression on German, who said he used it as motivation.

“I loved it,” German said. “He went out there and he had a good reason to go out there and fight for us. Personally, I fed off that energy. It gave me a boost to concentrate and go out there and do my job and try to get this victory for him because he went out there and fought for us, so I felt that it was my responsibility to go back out there and return the favor.”

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